‘I’ ON CULTURE
The HBO series Game of Thrones has become a cultural landmark. People who know I write this column have been coming up to me recently demanding my opinion on the latest plot twists. I remind them that I actually reviewed the series when it started, but most point out that the review came before most of the real plotting.
The popularity of the show is remarkable for something on a pay channel. It gets as many viewers as many of the regular TV shows. It has a cast of characters many times the size of the average show, and they are involved in a whole group of different stories that somehow do or will intertwine.
There are more changes in circumstance for characters in one episode of Game of Thrones than in some full seasons of regular television series. Characters die in a variety of horrific ways, gross crimes are committed, and the morality is often quite different from our expected norms. But, on the other hand, the surviving characters are allowed to grow, to change — although it sometimes seems that far too many die off too quickly.
The story line follows the goings on in the seven kingdoms on the continent of Westeros (although one transfers to a neighboring continent, Essos). All the ruling families battle for control when the king dies and his young son takes over. Except the son is actually the son of his wife, Cersei, and her twin brother, Jamie. The kid is also a real nasty one, a psycho. The queen’s family takes over, and it is a mess. Besides the incestuous twins, there is nasty father who hates his other son, the dwarf Tyrion, and sets him up to be killed several times.
A marriage is arranged with a daughter of the popular Stark family, since Ned Stark, the father, was a close friend and supporter of the late king. At the end of the first season, they execute Ned, the first real sign that this series was different: It not only killed off characters, it got rid of the person who was the central character.
By the current, fifth season, the Stark family is in tatters: the wife and eldest son murdered; the engaged daughter, Sansa, first a prisoner and then on the run; the second daughter, Arya, abandoned to the streets and about to make enormous changes; another son crippled; and Ned’s bastard son Jon Snow has been sent to the Northern Wall to defend all the kingdoms from an invasion of the Wildlings.
I have left out the names of the actors because there are so many of them, there would be very little room to write anything else. There were 257 named actors by the third season, and new ones turn up, along with older ones not seen in years, in every episode.
There is another strand about beautiful Daenerys, married off to a barbarian prince, who is sexually “ridden” by him brutally until she learns a few tricks and he quickly treats her better before getting killed. A “witch” murders their son, and the princess survives because she is able to survive the burning, which also caused the birth from eggs of three young dragons who, after they are grown, occasionally obey her. As “mother of dragons,” she creates an army, conquers cities and now is beginning to learn that it is far easier to conquer than to rule.
There are other stories as well; right now, five years (and books) into an eight-year series (with three more books due out, although it is likely that the series will end before the publication dates), characters are moving around and learning. The most popular character, Tyrion, having escaped his death sentence, killing his father and the former mistress who betrayed him, seems on his way to help Daenerys. Jon Snow has taken the leadership of the men on the North Wall. Arya is about to start a new career, and Sansa may be under the spell of real sleazoid.
There is always something new going on, and being made by HBO means that everything is done to the highest production quality. I have recommended it to people who catch up by watching on demand and then become as addicted as I am.
If you have not watched, try it for a bit. After a while, you will join the millions who hate the fact that there are only 10 episodes a year.